Crashes caused by wrong-way drivers kill up to 400 people annually on average in the United States. The crashes are often head-on collisions making them more severe.
One person was killed and another seriously injured after a wrong-way driver crashed into another vehicle on Interstate 15 near Lindon on May 19, according to the Utah Highway Patrol.
Solving a deadly problem
UDOT Director of Operations Rob White joins Debbie Dujanovic and Dave Noriega to discuss the installation of 37 new heat-sensing cameras designed to locate wrong-way drivers across the state.
“How do you figure out which are the biggest trouble spots?” for wrong-way drivers, Debbie asked.
“The problem with these wrong-way driving crashes is that they’re not necessarily grouped in one location,” White said. “We’ve got 32 cameras that we’ve placed around the state at locations where we think there may be problems with people getting on [the highway] in the wrong direction.”
“What happens if someone does enter the wrong way and start driving?” Dave asked.
White said the new thermal cameras work day and night and have a detection zone where it can determine a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction and warn the traffic-operations center.
“They will get in and review that video, and then they can notify law enforcement that there’s a vehicle going in the wrong direction,” White said.
He said all of the eight drivers going in the wrong direction last week turned around and self-corrected. He said that happens most of the time when the traffic-operations center is alerted to a wrong-way driver.
Debbie referred to a fatal wrong-way crash on Interstate 215 in January and asked if a new UDOT camera had been installed where an 80-year-old driver traveling south entered the freeway on a northbound exit ramp near 4000 South.
A woman in her 20s in an eastbound car was killed. The 80-year-old driver was taken to a hospital and later died from her injuries.
“We do not have one installed there. We’re looking to get one installed there,” White said.
He said UDOT is in the process of upgrading the wrong-way sign there to include a flashing-red notification to alert drivers entering on an exit ramp.
White said many alerts about wrong-way drivers come from other drivers.
“Every second counts. What we’re trying to do with the cameras is get advance notification. . . If we can get an additional 10 seconds, 20 seconds that makes a big difference, ” White said.
He said UDOT is looking into warning other drivers by using overhead freeway signs alerting that a wrong-way driver is ahead.
“We’re not that far along with this program. We’re still trying to figure out where the best place to put all these cameras are,” White said.
He said in 2014 there were 24 fatalities caused by wrong-way drivers. So far this year, there have been nine fatalities, he said.
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